Simplicity 1062

Since I last checked in two months ago, I:

  • Successfully defended my dissertation.
  • Got to play tourist around Cincinnati for a week when my dad and his girlfriend came down to visit.
  • Met our new and deliciously tiny twin nephews (the recipients of the green and blue sweaters from this post).
  • Played trains with our 4-year-old nephew, who has somehow come to believe that my name is Lisa.
  • Made it through a very long week full of new faculty orientations, meetings, and workshops.
  • Redesigned my blog.
  • Completed my first week of teaching as a new professor.
  • Officially graduated from my PhD program.

It has been a very full summer. The first half was kind of dire, what with the seven week rush to finish my dissertation and then pack up our apartment to move to Cincinnati. But the last five or six weeks have been much more pleasant and relaxing. Even with the start-of-the-semester rush, I’m feeling good about my new job–I’ve got good students, the people I’m working with are all very nice and welcoming, and I’m glad to be teaching writing again. And although many people seem to expect me to be disappointed about moving to Ohio, I’m really loving Cincinnati so far.

A post-defense pic with my committee, including a committee member who had to Skype in.

A post-defense pic with my committee, including a committee member who had to Skype in.

After a long break, I also started sewing again at the end of July. I’ve finished a handful of items but was put off by the idea of having to figure out where to take blog pictures in our new place until today. As it turns out, the patio area at the back of our townhouse is a pretty perfect location with good light and low foot traffic from the neighbors in the afternoon, and I was able to catch up on all of the project photos I needed to take (with the exception of a cowl I knitted and now need to re-block after stupidly letting my cats sleep on it).

Simplicity 1062

Today, I’m sharing the simplest of my recent sewing projects–Simplicity 1062, view C, which I made up using a lightweight poly/rayon/cotton blend jersey from Girl Charlee. This isn’t my usual style, but I’ve been feeling drawn to oversized shirts so I thought I’d give the pattern a try since I had some fabric on hand that I knew would work well. I’m surprised by how much I like the batwing cut and all of the extra ease. It is, as you can imagine, incredibly comfortable, but I like the way that it looks on me as well.

Simplicity 1062

As far as the sizing goes, I was a little tempted just to make a straight size XL, which is the size that most closely matches my bust measurement. However, I decided in the end that I wanted to stay truer to the intended design ease, especially around the hips. So I ended up tracing the L for the neckline, blended to the XL for the sleeves and upper torso, and then blended out to the XXL for the hips.

Simplicity 1062

This shirt is meant to have a subtle high-low hem, so the hem of the front piece curves upward by an inch or so. Since I didn’t do an FBA on this top, I added some extra length to the center front of the shirt by simply straightening out the front hem. The shirt would have been too short at the front without that extra bit of length and thanks to, you know, boobs, I still get the curved hem effect.

Simplicity 1062

I feel compelled to explain that this shirt is cut on grain, but the heathered striations in the fabric run at a slight diagonal. I’m thinking of it as a fun design feature. I haven’t really worn this yet but am looking forward to wearing it all the time once fall sets in. I’m also keeping my eye open for a good striped jersey to use for my next version.

More finished projects coming soon!

Normcore Tonic Tees

A little while ago, I decided to give up on trying to make basic t-shirts. I had tried two different patterns—the Maria of Denmark Birgitte Basic Tee and McCall’s 6658—but after making both up multiple times and making lots of adjustments, I couldn’t get either pattern to fit the way I needed through the chest and shoulder. It didn’t seem like it should be such a struggle to find a basic pattern that fit well where it matters most, so I decided to just give up the ghost and start buying t-shirts from Old Navy again.

SBCC Tonic Tee

And then I actually bought some T-shirts from Old Navy and remembered what a shitty solution that was. Such is the plight of bodies that span 3-4 sizes on a standard sizing chart. So I went back to the drawing board to find yet another t-shirt pattern to try. I’ve come very close to buying Sewaholic’s Renfrew pattern several times, but even as a pdf download, it’s a bit more money than I want to spend for a pattern that only goes up to a 41” bust. In my searches, I was reminded of the SBCC Tonic Tee, which is not only available in plus sizes (albeit as petite sizing) but is also free. And lo and behold, I’ve finally hit on a t-shirt pattern that I’m really pleased with.

SBCC Tonic Tee

Honestly, the only reason I tried this pattern was because of its lack of price, which, combined with a length of stashed fabric that I had no plans for, meant that I had nothing to lose with this experiment but a bit of time. But I am really impressed with some of the drafting details on the Tonic Tee. It’s drafted with a slight forward shoulder, a high and scooped armscye, a sleeve head that is shaped differently for the front and back of the body, and a slightly dipped front hem to account for the stretch of the fabric over the bust. I also really like the shape and depth of the neckline.

SBCC Tonic Tee Back

As far as sizing, I started by tracing off a straight 1X. My high-bust measurement actually matches the XL size, but my fabric had less than the 75% stretch called for by the pattern, so I sized up per the pattern instructions. Since the pattern is drafted for petites and I am not (especially in the torso), I added an inch of length at the pattern’s shorten/lengthen line just above the waist and an additional inch around the hip. I also added ½” of width to the back at the hip and did a 3/8” narrow shoulder adjustment. Finally, I did a 1” FBA, rotating part of the dart out to the hem and easing the rest of the dart in to the side seam at bust level. It seems like a lot of adjustments, but they didn’t take long and, more importantly, they gave me a really good fit with this pattern right out of the gate. All told, I’m wearing these shirts with 1” of negative ease at the bust, ~2” of negative ease at the hip, and zero ease at the sleeve hem.

SBCC Tonic Tee Neckline

All of these shirts are made with lightweight cotton-spandex blends. The charcoal, black, and olive fabrics are all from Girl Charlee and the black and gray stripes are a Riley Blake print I ordered from Fabric.com as a reward for finishing a long dissertation chapter on a film that goes to great lengths to make fat bodies seem disgusting and pathetic from the inside out. So, you know, self-care all that jazz. Sadly for the filmmakers, I feel neither disgusting nor pathetic and will continue flaunting my fat in these horizontal stripes. I give their film two hearty middle fingers.

SBCC Tonic Tee

Anyway. I had kind of discounted SBCC patterns because of their petite sizing, but now that I know I can make a couple of easy adjustments to make them work for my non-petite body, I’m planning to try out the Cabernet Cardigan this fall. Hopefully I won’t bore you too much with all of my normcore fashion decisions.

Jalie 2921

I finished this project a few months ago—either at the end of February or the beginning of March—but it’s clearly taken me a long time to actually get pictures of it. I think part of the reason it took me so long to take photos was because I wasn’t sure how I felt about the style. Honestly, I’m still not completely convinced that this is a style I like on me.

Jalie 2921

(Clearly I have given up on smiling in blog pictures. It’s awkward enough to take modeled shots of the stuff I make. I’m not going to make things more complicated by fighting my resting bitch face.)

The pattern is Jalie 2921, which was very easy to make. I like working with Jalie patterns because so far I’ve found that they are relatively simple to fit to my body. I made this up using some Dakota Stretch Rayon Jersey from Fabric.com that is very soft and drapey, but that has nice recovery so it doesn’t bag out like some rayon jerseys. It’s actually the same base as the fabric I used for my Faded Stripes top, and I just ordered another length of this fabric in a different color.

Jalie 2921 As far as size goes, I started with the size appropriate for my high bust—AA—then blended out two sizes at the armscye to size CC and then blended out to size DD for the hip. I also experimented with doing a length-only FBA, where you add length just to the front piece and then ease the excess length into the back at bust level. It worked okay for this top, and definitely gave me the extra fabric that I need at the front, but I don’t know that I would do it again. I found the easing a bit tricky and I feel like I have to sort of “arrange” the shirt when I first put it on or I end up with weird wrinkles from the bust up.

Jalie 2921

Like I said, I’m still not completely sold on this style. It’s a style that I like in general and like when I see it on other people, but I’m just not sure how I feel about it on me. I know that I definitely will not be tying the scarf part into a bow—I hated the way that it looked on me. I guess I feel like maybe the scarf front is a bit girly or a bit too retro for me? When I first finished it, I thought: okay, maybe this will grow on me. And overtime, that feeling transformed into: ugh, what was I thinking? Why did I make this? But then I tried it on for Aidan and he liked it, and that’s brought me back to feeling like it might grow on me. To be fair, I haven’t really worn this out and about since I finished teaching in April and I default to ultra-casual in my day-to-day. So this won’t get the full test run until I start teaching again in the fall, when I’ll actually need to wear it because my professional wardrobe is shamefully small.

feminist scholar

Maybe if I just try to channel Kathleen Hanna as feminist scholar, then I’ll really start to love it. We’ll see.

Ottobre Faded Stripes/Foxes Shirt

It turns out I was just kidding when I suggested that I wouldn’t sew again until my dissertation was done. I had thought about having Aidan take my sewing machine with him when he left for Cincinnati, but I decided against it at the last minute. And then as soon as he was gone and I had no one around to entertain me, I started sewing in little bits of time while taking a break from work. This is first thing I managed to finish—the Faded Stripes Top from Ottobre Woman 02/2015. The main fabric is a rayon/Spandex jersey from Fabric.com and the bindings are a rayon/Spandex ribbing from Girl Charlee. I rarely find prints that that I’m interested in wearing–I don’t want anything that is too bright, too busy, or too feminine. So even though this fox print is verging on hipster nonsense, I liked it enough to spring for a yard’s worth. I think this shirt is now the coolest piece of clothing I own. (Although, to be fair, I am extremely thin on clothing at the moment, so the bar isn’t very high.)

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

I started subscribing to Ottobre Woman last summer and have three issues, but this is the first Ottobre project I’ve actually made. The two things people always note as a word of caution about Ottobre patterns is that 1) they come with the crazy, color-coded pull-out sheets that you have trace your pattern pieces from and 2) the instructions are on the spare side. I didn’t find either of these things a problem, but this is also a really simple pattern with only 3 pattern pieces plus bindings. I mean, you could easily figure out how to put this shirt together just by looking at the line drawing.

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

My one quibble with the instructions has to do with the binding around the sleeves and neckline. The instructions tell you that for binding fabric with 40-50% stretch, you should cut the binding strips at 70% of the length of the opening you are binding. Now, when I read that, I thought it seemed way too short for binding. But my ribbing has ~60% stretch, so I followed the instructions anyway and sewed the first strip of binding to the first sleeve and it was, indeed, way too short—the entire sleeve opening was gathered. I went back and recut binding strips at 85% of the length of the opening (Ottobre’s recommended length for binding fabrics with 20-30% stretch) and that worked much better. But it also makes me think that if you had a fabric with significantly less stretch, you’d probably want to cut the bindings just a tiny bit smaller than the opening. Anyway. Lesson learned.

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

My high bust measurement puts me in a size 46 on the Ottobre chart, but since the style of this shirt is more relaxed through the shoulders, I just traced a straight 48 to give me a bit more room at the bust to start with. I did a 1” FBA, and rotated most of the dart to the hem to give me a bit more room at the hips. I eased the rest of the dart into the side seam at the bust level. I’m relatively happy with the fit, although I did have an issue with the back neckline drooping and collapsing on itself. I remember seeing a tip from Debbie at Stitches and Seams for dealing with drooping knit necklines by running some elastic thread through the stitching line at the back of the neck to tighten it up. It took me about 5 minutes to do, and it worked out perfectly. When the shirt is laid flat, you can see some rippling at the back of the neck from where the elastic is, but it lays flat when I wear it.

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

And finally, not to belabor a post about a very simple t-shirt, but I did end up using a twin needle to top-stitch the binding and sew the hem. It’s the first time I pulled out the twin needle since I swore them off a few months ago, and it wasn’t so painful this time, primarily because I saw this post from Pandora Sews Plus Size Clothes. I was already doing most of what she recommended, but she had one tip in particular about threading a twin needle where she explained that you aren’t supposed to hook the thread going into the right needle over the bar in front of the needle. This one little trick—not catching the second thread through the bar above the needle—made a huge difference and resolved almost all of the problems I was having with thread tension and skipped stitches. So, I have tentatively invited the twin needle back into my life, although I still maintain that people tend to oversell its virtues and ease of use. The twin needling around the binding worked out much better than the twin needling at the hem—it’s almost like the twin needle responded better to sewing through a more substantial thickness of fabric? I’m going to see how it wears, but I might actually end up redoing the hem using a narrower twin needle. We’ll see. At the very least, I’m glad to have stumbled across the first tip that has made a serious difference for using a twin needle on my current machine.

Blank Canvas

This is kind of a boring, basic pullover, but this project was meant to be an experiment with a different sweater construction method. I’d say the experiment was a success.

I prefer to knit sweaters in pieces and then seam them together, and this is partly because I find knitting an entire adult-sized sweater in one piece rather tedious and partly because I’ve just had better luck getting a seamed sweater with set-in sleeves to fit me well. Raglan sweaters, in particular, have given me a lot of trouble in the past because they just don’t seem to agree with my body. Not only have I found it difficult to get a good fit with traditional raglan sweaters, but I don’t think they look particularly good on me either. I just don’t seem to have broad enough shoulders to pull a raglan sweater off without looking, well, frumpy. While a set-in sleeve helps to define my (relatively narrow) shoulders, traditional raglan lines have a way of making my shoulders disappear. Not good. Still, the lines of a raglan sweater offer some attractive design options (color blocked sleeves, textured sleeves, striped sleeves, lace sleeves, etc.) that just wouldn’t look quite as good with the set-in sleeves I typically prefer.

So I wanted to try Ysolda Teague’s Blank Canvas pattern, which claims that women who don’t typically look good in raglan sweaters might prefer the look of the modified raglan shaping used in her pattern. A traditional raglan yoke is shaped through a series of decreases or increases (depending on which direction you’re knitting) where the sleeves and the torso connect. These decreases/increases are worked at an equal rate across the sleeve and torso, and are usually worked at a consistent frequency, to basically create four straight lines that run diagonally from the underarm to the neckline. The yoke of Blank Canvas switches up the traditional raglan shaping and instead has you decrease across the sleeve and body at differing rates and also changes the frequency of decrease at different points in the yoke to create a raglan line that more closely follows the physical contours of the arm and shoulder. And I can now verify that this kind of shaping does, indeed, look a lot better on we narrow-shouldered-and-busty types who don’t look good in a traditional raglan.

I followed the instructions for the size that most closely matched my upper bust measurement and the fitting through the shoulders is spot-on. This method of shaping the yoke isn’t quite as simple and straight-forward as working a traditional raglan, but Ysolda’s pattern directions are very clear and easy to follow. Now that I’ve worked with the pattern, I feel like I could easily adjust the shaping to accommodate different weights of yarn. I’m looking forward to playing around with this raglan construction more in the future. While I followed the instructions for the yoke shaping and the sleeves, I determined my own cast-on numbers, worked out my own shaping through the body, and added my usual 3” of HBDs. I also swapped the pattern’s crew neck for a deep V-neck. The yarn I used is Berroco Vintage DK in Neptune—it’s a color that says “spring” even if the weather around here doesn’t agree.

The view from our front door last Wednesday. Taken during my “Spring” Break.

There are a couple of other things that I’ve learned from this project:

  • Because I modified the pattern to create a deep V-neck, I worked all of the raglan shaping back and forth rather than in-the-round as the pattern specifies, and this  meant having to work some of the decreases from the wrong side. This turned out to be pretty easy, and it’s a good reminder that I can decrease on wrong side rows whenever I’m knitting flat if I want to—something that opens up possibilities for figuring out rates of decrease in the future.
  • This pattern uses a different increase method than I’ve worked before. I usually work a M1R/M1L, while this pattern uses lifted increases (which are explained at the end of this Knitty article). I was a little worried about how these increases would look in the final product, but they create a very neat finish. The best part is that I think it’s a lot more intuitive to figure out how/when to work a left or right-leaning decrease than it is with the M1R/M1L business. I plan to continue using lifted increases in the future.
  • Finally, I wanted to tweak the fit at the back of the sweater since I don’t think I’ve been using quite enough back shaping. However, I couldn’t decrease on the back any faster than I’d been doing or the fabric would start to bias. So after looking at some other people’s projects on Ravelry (which is a nice way of saying that I spent a lot of time studying other people’s backsides), I decided to add a second dart halfway between my usual decrease line and the edge of the back of the sweater. I decreased an additional half inch on either side (removing an extra inch of fabric overall), and I’m really happy with the result. I’ll definitely be working that second set of darts in the future.

I want to keep expanding my familiarity with different sweater construction methods. I want to try making a circular yoked sweater (perhaps the Van Doesburg Pullover from the Spring issue of KnitScene?), and I’m also intrigued by the top-down method Andi Satterlund uses in her patterns. Do you have a favorite sweater construction method?